Latvia: No e-voting for Latvia any time soon | LSM

Arnis Cimdars, chairman of Latvia’s Central Electoral Commission (CVK) claimed Wednesday that electronic voting was not secure enough to allow it to be used in Latvian elections – despite the fact that neighboring Estonia has used e-voting successfully since 2005. “There it happens. They accept it,” Cimdars said, noting different mindsets in the two countries. Speaking on LTV’s Rita Panorama morning news show, Cimdars said he thought e-voting would happen “sooner or later” but that debates about its introduction would continue for the foreseeable future. “According to our experts, it is not possible for us with current technology. We have some mental reservations about this method of voting, too… at the moment it is not possible to ensure the anonymity and security of this method of voting, so I don’t think it will happen very soon,” he added.

Maryland: On-line voting battle pits the blind vs. the blind | McClatchy DC

Maryland’s Board of Elections fell one vote short last year of the super-majority needed to inch the state toward online on-line voting, despite cyber experts’ warnings that such balloting could easily be hacked, with votes even switched to other candidates. Now, three months before this fall’s elections, the issue has morphed into a legal battle pitting the blind vs. the blind. It’s a fight with plenty of intrigue behind it and nationwide implications in the debate over whether cyber security is ready for electronic voting. The National Federation of the Blind Inc., which touts itself as the recognized voice of blind Americans and their families, filed a federal court suit in May seeking to compel the state elections board to make its newly developed online ballot-marking system available so that all disabled people could cast absentee ballots via the internet this fall. It’s a suit that likely wasn’t unwelcome to the three board members who voted to implement the system and to state Election Director Linda Lamone, a big advocate of electronic voting. But over the weekend, the American Council of the Blind of Maryland, along with three blind residents and two nonprofit groups that have fought internet voting, intervened in the case filed in Baltimore. They contend that the board’s online balloting tool is both flawed and insecure.

North Carolina: Federal judge rejects preliminary injunction on voting law | Winston-Salem Journal

North Carolina’s new voting law that, among other things, reduces early voting hours and eliminates same-day voter registration will be in place for the November elections, a federal judge ruled late Friday. U.S. District Judge Thomas D. Schroeder denied a preliminary injunction barring the use of the laws, saying that the U.S. Department of Justice, the state NAACP and others had failed to show that the law would have such “irreparable harm” to blacks, young people, other racial minorities and poor people that it should be blocked for the November election. That election features the hotly contested U.S. Senate race between Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan and Thom Tillis, the Republican speaker of the House and one of the main architects of the new law. Schroeder also denied a request by the Justice Department to have federal observers in North Carolina for the November election. But Schroeder also declined to dismiss the trio of lawsuits filed last year, which included the League of Women Voters, the state NAACP, the Justice Department and individual plaintiffs such as Emmanuel Baptist Church in Winston-Salem. The lawsuits, which challenge the constitutionality of North Carolina’s voting law, are scheduled for trial in July 2015.

National: Voter intimidation fears spike as key midterms approach | MSNBC

The Supreme Court’s ruling last year that gutted the Voting Rights Act didn’t just free southern states from federal supervision of their voting laws. It also, far more quietly, put an end to a decades-long program in which the federal government sent election observers to prevent race-based voter intimidation. And with crucial midterm elections fast approaching, voting rights advocates are expressing grave concern. The issue is highlighted as part of a major new report on ongoing racial discrimination in voting, released Wednesday by a coalition of civil rights groups to mark the 49th anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). Bob Kengle, a former head of the DOJ’s voting section, called the demise of the observer program “a big loss.” Kengle is now with the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which led the coalition that compiled the report. The department’s election monitors have in the past played a crucial role in protecting the right to vote. They’ve often been called in by election officials to ease tensions at the polls and avert potential instances of race-based intimidation or irregularities, sometimes reporting problems to lawyers at DOJ. And in recent years, they’ve worked to ensure compliance with the VRA’s provisions on non-English speakers, helping to bring lawsuits by documenting polling places that aren’t offering materials to serve those groups.

Editorials: Eric Holder goes to the mat for voting rights | Zachary Roth/MSNBC

The Obama administration’s interventions last week in two major voting rights cases gave a big boost to efforts to challenge restrictive voting laws in two crucial swing states. But they did something else, too: They offered more evidence that Attorney General Eric Holder is determined to match his tough talk about the need to protect voting with action. Indeed, when Holder steps down as the nation’s top law enforcement officer—which could happen as soon as this year—his commitment to ensuring access to the ballot for all eligible Americans could stand out as his most important achievement. In his rhetoric, Holder has left little doubt that he sees the issue of voting rights as a defining moral question for the country, raising the topic again and again in speeches and interviews over the last few years . “This comes down, in some ways, to a fundamental question of who we are—who we are as a people,” he told The New Yorker for a profile published in February. “The history of this nation has always been to try to expand the franchise. Whether it’s freed slaves, women, young people, we’ve always found ways to make it easier to vote…To turn our backs on that history is inconsistent with who we say we are as a nation.”  And for a man with a reputation as a cautious and soft-spoken bureaucrat, he’s often used surprisingly pointed language to call out Republicans for making voting harder.

Florida: Legislature: Don’t talk to congressional members, political consultants | Orlando Sentinel

In advance of a rapid-fire redistricting special session slated to start Thursday, House and Senate Republican leaders have ordered staff to have no contact with congressional members, lobbyists or political consultants. Those three cohorts of influence-peddlers and politicos helped the Legislature run afoul of Florida’s anti-gerrymandering constitutional requirements, and lawmakers appear to be taking no chances this time. “House Redistricting Committee staff have been informed that they are to have no interactions with any member of Congress, Congressional staffer or aide, or with any political consultant,” House Redistricting Chairman Richard Corcoran, R-Port Richey, said in a memo. “If any member of the House suggests to Redistricting Committee staff that a plan be changed with an intent to favor or disfavor any incumbent or political party, staff should disregard the suggestion entirely and report the conversation directly to me.”

Florida: Revamped early voting begins next week in Florida | Tampa Bay Times

Early voting in Florida’s statewide primary election will get under way next week, with more days and more locations in most counties but probably far fewer voters. Shamed into action by the record wait times at early voting sites in 2012, the Legislature retooled early voting to give county elections supervisors more flexibility in hours and locations, something they had demanded for years. Counties must now offer at least eight days of early voting for eight hours a day and may expand to 14 days for up to 12 hours a day. They may also use a wider variety of sites, such as fairgrounds and community centers, in addition to libraries, city halls and elections offices that continue to be the mainstays of early voting. As a result, schedules vary widely, from 123.5 hours in the Florida Keys to 64 hours in Pasco and Hernando counties.

Guam: Election Commission receives new voting tabulators | Pacific Daily News

The Guam Election Commission has new voting tabulators and is gearing up for the Aug. 30 Primary Election. GEC Executive Director Maria Pangelinan said the three tabulators arrived Aug. 1 and the staff started training on Monday. The Legislature in June appropriated $134,250 to buy a new ballot tabulation system and $48,500 for ballot stock and coding services. The four tabulators the election commission had were old and outdated and caused some problems during the last election in 2012.

Arizona: Elections board mistake with Peoria candidate will cost taxpayers $15K | West Valley News

A Maricopa County Board of Elections’ error where a candidate’s name was left off the ballot is likely to cost taxpayers thousands of dollars. Karen Osbourne, the Maricopa County elections director, estimates it will cost taxpayers about $15,000 to mail out corrected ballots to nearly 8,500 residents. “We had 41 challenges this year, 10 days to hold and decide, and I failed to put him back on the ballot,” said Osbourne. She said she regrets the error.

Michigan: Judge dismisses lawsuit over disputed absentee ballots in Dearborn Heights | The Detroit News

A Wayne County judge dismissed a lawsuit Wednesday that raised suspicions of election fraud involving hundreds of absentee ballots in Dearborn Heights. Judge Robert Colombo Jr. lifted an injunction Wednesday morning that halted the counting of absentee ballots after state Rep. David Nathan, a state Senate candidate, sought a temporary restraining order to set aside certain absentee votes cast in Tuesday’s primary. “There is absolutely no evidence in this case that there has been one fraudulent ballot submitted by absentee ballot,” Colombo said. Nathan, one of six Democrats running in the 5th Senate District primary, filed a lawsuit late Monday seeking a temporary restraining order to prevent Dearborn Heights Clerk Walter Prusiewicz from counting absentee ballots.

Mississippi: Republican Party will not hear McDaniel challenge | Clarion-Ledger

The Mississippi Republican Party has said they will not hear the challenge from Chris McDaniel because state law would not allow them sufficient time to consider the evidence. In a letter to McDaniel attorney Mitch Tyner, Mississippi Republican Party Chairman Joe Nosef said the candidate should move their challenge to the courts. Nosef, who is in Chicago for the Republican National Committee meeting, cited a law amended in 2012 that requires “a petition for judicial review must be filed within ten (10) days after any contest or complaint has been filed with an executive committee.” The 10-day deadline from Monday’s challenge would be Thursday, Aug. 14.

New Jersey: Mercer County Clerk warns residents of voter registration scam |

When Mercer County Clerk Paula Sollami Covello found out that many Mercer County residents, particularly college students, were paying online to register to vote — a service that is offered by government agencies for free — she was really surprised. Sollami Covello said that while she would like to see as many people registered as possible, she wants it known that it doesn’t have to cost any money. “I thought it was important to remind (residents) that voting is a right and a privilege to citizens of the United States, which should never cost a voter money,” she said.

Virginia: Elections board will not allow IDs expired more than 12 months | Richmond Times-Dispatch

The State Board of Elections on Wednesday backed a new policy that eliminates for voting purposes any form of photo identification that expired more than 12 months before Election Day. Critics believe the new rule will confuse and make it harder for some Virginians to vote. The board’s 2-1 vote reverses a more lenient policy decision from June that would have accepted at the polls expired but otherwise valid forms of identification permitted under the new voter ID mandate, which took effect July 1. After Sen. Mark D. Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, the sponsor of the new law, expressed concerns, the board reconsidered. It reopened the public comment period for an additional 21 days to explore whether the agency has legal authority to determine what forms of ID are valid. Initially, the board wanted to invalidate expired IDs entirely as an acceptable form of voter identification. But it adopted the alternative policy after reviewing public comments and a legal analysis by Attorney General Mark R. Herring, who concluded that some of the language in the policy could create confusion at the polls and lead to unequal treatment of voters or even prevent voters from casting a ballot.

Virginia: Election board makes voter ID requirements more stringent | The Washington Post

Inflaming a contentious debate over voter identification laws, the Virginia State Board of Elections decided this week that, to cast a ballot, voters will have to present a current photo ID or one that expired within the past year. The Republican-controlled board voted 2 to 0 Wednesday — with the Democratic member absent — to narrow the definition of valid identification, a move that one board member said would streamline and simplify the rules. “We believe it’s a compromise and gives people a reasonable grace period,” said Donald Palmer, who was appointed to the board by then-Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R). But Democrats and voting rights advocates said the new rule will confuse voters less than two weeks before a special election in which the rule is expected to apply. “The board’s decision today makes it that much more difficult for voters to participate in our democracy,” said Tram Nguyen, co-executive director of Virginia New Majority. “Our elections should be free, fair and accessible. Needlessly restricting the forms of voting ID only makes it more difficult.”

Wyoming: Judge approves settlement in campaign finance suit | Associated Press

A provision of Wyoming law that restricted third-party political candidate fundraising is unconstitutional and can’t be enforced, a federal judge has ordered. U.S. District Judge Alan B. Johnson on Tuesday approved a settlement agreement ending a lawsuit challenging the fundraising restriction. Jennifer Young of Torrington, running for secretary of state as a Constitution Party candidate, and one of her supporters, Donald Wills of Pine Bluffs, sued the state. They challenged a state campaign finance law that limited fundraising for candidates whose parties don’t participate in primary elections. Johnson approved a settlement agreement that the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office reached with Young and Wills. The order states the fundraising restriction is unconstitutional and can’t be enforced.

Editorials: The Fragile Future Of Democracy In Afghanistan | Eurasia Review

Afghanistan’s ongoing presidential election, if successful, will mark the first transfer of power via an election in that country’s history. Election does not necessarily imply democracy. Afghanistan’s previous two presidential elections, both won by incumbent Hamid Karzai, saw ubiquitous election fraud and there are legitimate questions about how representative one leader or political party can be in a country so fraught with sectarian and tribal divisions. Nowhere are these divisions more apparent than in the central challenge of selling the whole process of democracy to the Afghan people. Afghanistan’s divisions are manifested partly in the readiness of many Afghans to pursue other avenues when the State looks less than functional, which is its usual condition. Presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah who withdrew from the 2009 election to protest Karzai’s election fraud has threatened to create a “parallel state,” by force if necessary, if the currently disputed outcome cannot be resolved. This willingness on Abdullah’s part is suggestive of many things, most important of which may be a lack of confidence that the central government can effectively represent more than one of Afghanistan’s many groups at a time. Abdullah nominally represents Tajik interests—the northern part of the country—despite his own mixed ancestry. Ashraf Ghani, the other candidate, has more widespread support among Pashtuns. The challenge all parties face is in trying to make this election more than a contest to see which ethnic group has more voters.

Fiji: Ballot numbering selected at random, Fiji Election Commission calls for early nomination submission | Islands Business

Fiji’s Electoral Commission chairman Chen Bunn Young said the ballot paper numbering was selected at random and denies it has any other implication aside from starting with a three-digit number to avoid any confusion for voters. His comments follow statements reported to have been made by former Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase who suggested it had religious implications leaning towards the Quran. “There was no thought put behind it as to what it would resemble or if it has any religious implication or connotation like it has been suggested. “We did not use no.1 because of the fact that number gives a false impression to voters that the person is the number one candidate. It was chosen at random for that reason and the reason that it was a three-digit number,” Young said. He further said in instances where a report or a complaint is made to the commission, they would have to verify it first to ascertain facts.

Indonesia: Court Begins Hearing Election Dispute | Associated Press

Indonesia’s Constitutional Court on Wednesday began hearing a challenge of the result of the country’s July 9 presidential election, in which Jakarta Gov. Joko Widodo was declared victor. Losing candidate Prabowo Subianto filed a complaint with the court last month, alleging that “structural, systematic and massive fraud” by the Election Commission had destroyed his chances of leading Southeast Asia’s largest economy. On July 22, the commission declared Widodo, widely known as Jokowi, the winner with 53 percent of the votes, more than 8 million more than Subianto, a former general under longtime dictator Suharto. Subianto’s representatives walked out before the final tally was completed. The former general did not concede and called on supporters to reject the results, saying they were flawed and violated the principles of democracy.

Editorials: Turkey’s presidential elections: What is at stake? | A Kadir Yildirim/Al Jazeera

There is little doubt that Prime Minister Recep Erdogan will win the upcoming presidential elections. His lead in the most recent public opinions polls is at least in double digits. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu was fielded as a joint candidate for the two largest opposition parties, centre-left People’s Republican Party (CHP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). The third candidate is Selahattin Demirtas, co-chairman of the Kurdish nationalist People’s Democratic Party (HDP). Despite the fact that this is the first election in which the president will be elected by popular vote, following a constitutional amendment in 2007,enthusiasm for it is running fairly low. This election offers the Turkish voter the choice of two different models of presidency, where one would imply a de facto change in the system of governance. The election of either Ihsanoglu or Demirtas would maintain the fairly symbolic presidency in a parliamentary system. By contrast, Erdogan’s election will turn it into a semi-presidential one. In recent remarks, Erdogan clearly expressed his preference for an active presidency: “A president elected by the people cannot be like the previous ones. As the head of the executive, the president uses all his constitutional powers. If I am elected president, I will also use all of them. I won’t be a president of protocol.” Erdogan certainly has some room to do that within the current constitutional provisions that determine the powers of the presidency. The concern, however, is that Erdogan is adamant about politicising the role of the president; as he himself said: he “won’t be an impartial president”. What is at stake?